Bleak Prospects

     The announced Republican presidential candidates had 
their, er, debate, on MSNBC, with Chris Matthews 
presiding like a sheepdog. No opening or closing 
statements, just quick responses, with lots of barking.

     In such a format, so early in the race, it seems 
rather pointless to speak of winners and losers, but Mitt 
Romney's team was understandably elated. Romney showed 
impressive poise, fielding questions deftly and probably 
disarming many viewers' misgivings about his Mormon 
religion; as an old Michigander who vividly remembers his 
maladroit father, Gov. George Romney, I could hardly 
believe this was George's son.

     The old man, a "moderate" Republican (remember 
them?), is still best known for destroying his own 
presidential ambitions in 1968 with a single word: He 
said he'd been "brainwashed" by the military into 
supporting the Vietnam War.

     That episode obviously taught Mitt a lesson he has 
never forgotten.

     John McCain, on the other hand, struck me as weary 
and worn out, a spent force. The days of the Straight 
Talk Express are long gone. He has become an apologist 
for a lost cause, and his recent foray into darkest 
Baghdad made him look absurd. Stuck with a lot of 
positions that may once have seemed feisty, he now 
excites more pity than enthusiasm.

     The evening's comedy was provided by Rudy Giuliani, 
who is also stuck with positions that made him a winner 
in the Big Apple, but fail to grab Ma and Pa Kettle in 
the heartland. Knowing this, he tripped all over his 
shoelaces trying to "clarify" his views on abortion, 
which he now says he hates but believes is a decision 
that each woman must be free to make for herself though 
he would encourage her not to and he believes in 
federalism and would appoint judges who might or might 
not reverse Roe v. Wade because he is a strict 
constructionist. Or words (many, many words) to that 

     The pundits all had a good belly laugh at his 
desperate wriggling, impassioned self-contradiction, and 
garrulously transparent hypocrisy. He seemed to be 
wearing an invisible bad toupee. Something tells me his 
campaign is headed downhill.

     The candidate who did acquit himself honorably was, 
as I expected, Ron Paul of Texas, the one real 
conservative in the lot. He was also the only one who 
clearly opposed the Iraq War and raised the subject of 
the U.S. Constitution. Paul had not come to waffle. He 
had barely shown up in the pre-debate polls, but his 
small following is ardent, and he did surprisingly well 
in the polls taken after the, er, debate.

     Paul's forthright presence was the only thing that 
made it a debate at all. The others all invoked the 
sacred name of Reagan and avoided the name of Bush, as if 
equally afraid of being identified with him and of being 
seen as renegades to the GOP.

     What the evening showed was that George W. Bush has 
put his party in an extremely awkward posture. In a way, 
even the abominable Giuliani merely reflects this fact: 
Bush has sacrificed the post-Reagan anti-abortion party 
consensus to the Iraq War, just when the whole country 
was finally coming around.

     And if Giuliani should somehow win the GOP 
presidential nomination next year, both major parties 
will offer pro-abortion candidates, and Republican 
defections will ensure a Democratic victory. Could the 
GOP even survive that?

The Darwinian Trap

     The pundits also enjoyed a hearty laugh when three 
of the Republicans said they didn't believe in the theory 
of evolution. Darwinism is of course one of those things 
Everybody Knows, except perhaps the aforementioned Ma and 
Pa Kettle.

     As is often the case, however, Everybody "Knows" 
this only in the sense that few dare to question it, 
though few actually think about it. It is really one of 
those received ideas that has been dinned into us until 
it has come to seem self-evident, like the alleged 
superiority of democracy to all other forms of 
government. How can it possibly be false?

     But ask people =how= they know it, and you quickly 
find that they simply accept it on sheer faith. That 
disembodied god Science, the ultimate authority, has 
spoken. The social pressure to assent to it is intense. 
Millions of "educated" people can't even imagine doubting 
it. And besides, who wants to be smirked at?

     Yet Darwinism has many intelligent critics, some of 
whom are scientists, and others who rely on simple common 
sense. The latter include C.S. Lewis in his classic 

     To these I would add DARWINIAN FAIRYTALES (just 
republished by Encounter) written by the late Australian 
philosopher David Stove, himself an atheist who rejects 
Darwinism as nonsense on its face that -- never mind the 
fossil record -- can't withstand the most obvious tests 
of its cogency.

     After all, Darwin's thesis of a "ruthless" "struggle 
for survival" purports to be not a mere fact about the 
prehistoric past, but a scientific law, a "universal 
generalization," true always and everywhere, as men, like 
all other species, compete for a limited supply of food, 
and so forth.

     Thus if it was ever true, it was always true and 
always must and will be. So it must also be true today. 
But is it? Obviously not. We are far more cooperative 
than competitive in the horrifyingly ruthless way that 
Darwin says it is our very nature to be. Every hospital, 
charity, and even family refutes the whole batty idea.

     According to his theory, we should not only neglect 
our own children -- with whom, after all, we must compete 
for food -- but eat them too! Darwinians have tried to 
dodge these logical implications of the theory, and some 
have even argued against charities and relief programs on 
grounds that they preserve the "unfit" -- which is 
exactly what they are supposed to do. There is no reason, 
place, or explanation for mercy in this absurd view.

     But such is the hypnotic power of the false but 
clear idea. In that respect, Darwinism is like Calvinism 
or Communism, but far more successful as a circular trap 
for the modern mind.

     This is a bold, breathtaking, exhilarating book that 
daringly attacks its target in its very stronghold, just 
where Everybody (or nearly Everybody) assumes it to be 
safe, strong, and impregnable. In fact, Stove insists, 
the idea is "mad"; and he never lets up. The result is a 
book that is not only trenchant but often very, very 

                 +          +          +                  

     "In a nutshell, Phil Donahue's philosophy boils down 
to this: 'Mean  old nuns whacked my knuckles with a 
ruler, ergo God doesn't exist.'" REGIME CHANGE BEGINS AT 
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